Whether it's a voiceover for advertising, a radio play, music production, or a podcast, fixing bad audio source files can be expensive and sometimes impossible. So, follow these simple tips to make sure you get a decent starting point. Remember, "Garbage in, garbage out." A good finished product starts with good, clean source recordings.
A good finished product starts with good, clean source recordings.
1. The Right Tools for The Job
It's an old expression, sure, but it rings true here: get a good mic. Some things can be tweaked with EQ in post-production, but nothing will get you better results, dollar for dollar than even a small investment in a decent quality microphone. And, invest in a pop filter and headphone, too. This will limit harsh sounds from consonants or sighs, as well as "track bleed," which is what happens when one person's isolated track picks up noises from others'.
Different than a typical recording session, make sure you have enough bandwidth so that your recording doesn't glitch, freeze, or sound warbly. If needed, ask other family members to limit their streaming of media during your recording session.
2. Shhhh (find a quiet place)
Seems simple, right? Got pets? How about kids? Did you turn off your phone? Did you turn notifications off on your computer and all of your devices? Finding a quiet place starts with a small room where you can close your door, but includes limiting all of the possible noise interruptions that might ruin a perfect take.
If you're podcasting, take it to the next level by limiting your own superfluous noises:
Mute your mic when your guests are speaking
Watch your "Ums"
While tempting to validate others, a "yes" or "right" or "OK" in a podcast can feel more interruptive than validating when listening back. With good track isolation, these can be removed or used sparingly, but it's better to give your guests or counterparts space to speak without interjection.
3. Warm up first and stay hydrated
Voiceover artists, podcasters, and singers have many things in common. Primarily, they use their mouth and facial muscles A LOT. Warm those muscles up without overworking them: practice your lines, do tongue twisters, or warm up with whatever exercises help your mouth, face, and voice so that you don't go into a session cold. Often, the first take has the most energy, and while we can punch in and fix flubs, it's always better to get a clean take from the first take.
Also, hydration, while recording is important — "dry mouth" can make it impossible to get a good take. However, hydration really begins a day or two before. So, ask yourself, have you had enough water today? (coffee doesn't count, sorry)
4. Breath Control
If you invest in a good mic, invest in a pop-filter. Either way, practice and listen for how your "P's" and "T's" hit the mic's diaphragm. And, if not controlled, your inhales and exhales can sound like a wind chamber. Don't be afraid to breathe. And, practice breath-control. Alternatively, you can move your mouth away from the mic or take shallow breaths.
5. Position Your Body and Practice Basic Mic Techniques
Sit up straight. Position your mic at your mouth. Sit back a few inches from the mic and pop-filter. Practice talking or singing in a way that moves your mouth further from the mic as your volume increases. If you're too "hot" on the mic (close), you may experience "clipping" which is a crunchy sound (like a broken speaker) where the signal is outside the range of the recording devices. Don't move your body or chair around, but it's OK to come off the mic a bit so that you don't overload the recording and clip.
And, if you've never recorded before, practice. Practice reading on the mic and recording your voice so you can see where things sound good. No one is born an expert. Practice and make small improvements for great results.